Pilgrimage to Passchendaele by Benjamin in 1997


Soldiers in a trench

Soldiers in a trench.

Here are the answers to questions about the pilgrimage


Where is Passchendale?

The village of Passchendaele is in the south-west part of Belgium about 10 kilometers north west of Ypres in the Western Front.

The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) started on July 31, 1917. The Canadian contribution started on Friday, October 26 and continued until the Canadians took Passchendaele on Friday November 6, 1917 as shown in the map -- Canadian Operations from Oct 26 to Nov 10, 1917.


What is a pilgrimage?

A trip to the Western Front battlefields to remember the soldiers who fought and gave their lives in the Great War.


Why the pilgrimage?

Benjamin's Grandfather, Lieutenant Thomas Albert SKILL, 58th Canadian (Central Ontario) Battalion, was killed in action on Friday, October 26, 1917 near Passchendaele. It was the first day of the Canadian contribution to the battle. He was 35 years old.

It was a misty, overcast morning. Rain had fallen sporadically through the night, as it would continue to do all day long. The Canadians faced an undeniable difficult task due to the swamp formed by the flooded Ravebeek stream.

The Canadian 58th Battalion attacked from the intersection of the Gravenstafel Road and the Ravebeek "creek" towards the enemy-held pillboxes at Laamkeek, in a muddy "swamp" called Marsh Bottom, a few thousand yards south west of the Passchendaele village as shown on this Third Canadian Division on Oct 26, 1917 map.

The attack started at 5:40 a.m. with an objective of gaining 600 yards but the 58th battalion was stopped by the German pillboxes near the Laamkeek farm buildings at the top of the hill. On October 26 the temperature was 48 degrees F, overcast, and 7.8 mm rainfall.

Lieutenant SKILL's name is listed with the other CEF 58th members on panel 30 of the Menin Gate in Ypres, shown here in a painting by Will Longstaff, named Menin Gate at Midnight.


What did Benjamin visit?

By researching a number of books and talking with the owner of The Shell Hole Hotel in Ypres, Benjamin determined that the Canadian 58th Battallion attacked the heavily-armed German line of pillboxes at the Laamkeek farm on Friday, October 26, 1917. The following picture shows the battle site on October 7, 1997 -- eighty years later.

In the picture you can see the Ravebeek stream near the trees. Of course, in 1917 the road and field was mud and the brick tower on the left was not there. The Laamkeek farm buildings are in the middle of the picture at the top of the hill.

The Oct 26, 1917 battle scene in 1997

The site of the first Canadian attack near Passchendaele, Belgium as seen on October 7, 1997 - eighty years after the attack.


How did Lieutenant Skill get to Passchendaele?

From Central Ontario in Canada to Flanders in Belgium:


Soldiers marching